He’s been telling us for years. Before All Elite Wrestling was even a glimmer in the eyes of Tony Khan and the once lovable Elite, Maxwell Jacob Friedman understood where his place in the world of professional wrestling truly was. I have no doubt in my mind that his determination matched his gluttony for power and notoriety. According to him, these things exist as something akin to a birthright, and while that may have seemed laughable once upon a time, perhaps it’s time we start to listen.
Look, I know it’s not easy. Max is unique, to put it lightly. One could argue his belief in himself borders on psychopathic, but to carry as much weight for a newly birthed company nearly single-handedly and to chew through enough pressure to drown us all, who wouldn’t be a teensy bit unpleasant in return? I mean, the man’s expectations mirror those that all of us watching hold of him as well. He’s the consensus future of this business, is he not? That’s not good enough for Max though. Nor should it be. He doesn’t just want the future; he wants the present. He wants blood, and he requires gold.
He’s constantly shown his desire to cement his early legacy in the very company that would willingly hold him down from opportunity. It would have us all believe that he is NOT undefeated as he claims so often to be, but that he has in fact eaten multiple losses. It would build nearly unscalable mountains in his path whether in the form of EVPs who wish him ill will or opponents that wish him worse. Against these odds, Max has still found his way to an unarguable prime position in AEW at a time when those positions are difficult to grasp and are even more difficult to hold onto.
Faced most recently with a challenge from one of wrestling’s GOATs, Chris Jericho, he has shown sides of himself that could be construed as truly evil if looked at through a cloudy lens. When examined more closely though, his cunning ability to adapt and inflict maximum torture upon his prey is reminiscent of vicious kings of old. Using personal connections, love, fear, regret, and pain, MJF has ascended to a throne he hadn’t yet eclipsed in All Elite Wrestling. In toying so perfectly with Chris Jericho, even as Chris was able to pass from one challenge to the next, Max proved to us all and to himself that he was indeed ready.
He looked into the eyes of someone he claimed to have respected once upon a time, and he tapped him out. Clean. He wrenched back on the arm of the man he had tortured for months and waited. Whether the beating of a tapping hand on the mat or the ripping of muscle in an over-stretched arm, Max listened intently and relished the moment that he toppled AEW’s first world champion. Perhaps the greatest mountain in the company had crumbled in the face of a quickly rising other.
Because months earlier, as one plan faltered as some plans do, another found life. When faced with obstacles as fortified and as immovable as mountains, what is a human being to do? For MJF the answer was an easy one, perhaps too easy. He builds his own. He builds it taller, stronger, and more dangerous than any in existence, and he waits for the first gullible and overconfident challenger to come. By surrounding himself once again with people that compliment him in ways almost unbelievable, he has built a ready-made kingdom without a king.
Every new kingdom arises through conquest. Some battles, like those fought against Cody Rhodes and Chris Jericho, fall in the favor of the usurper. Others, like Jon Moxley, for reasons as blatantly unfair as they are disappointing, go another way. Still, with every result, one’s conquest becomes stronger through lessons learned. His mates may continue their feuds, but their leader has just placed an exclamation point on his own, one that carries more weight than any other.
What is that old saying about the snake? As strong as the body may be – as seemingly immune to any attack – it becomes no more without that which controls its movements. For as long as the Inner Circle has been a thorn in the side of The Pinnacle, MJF has done something that will almost surely place this long and grueling blood feud to an end. He has beheaded the snake, for the THIRD time in ten months.
With bodies in his wake, and only possibilities in his path, one thing should drive MJF forward above all else. His crown. A king is nothing without it (insert awful Baron Corbin reference here…). Luckily, I’m only speaking of a hypothetical crown, though the golden color remains the same. Until Max rips that AEW world title from someone’s cold tired hands, he will not have reached the same pinnacle he so proudly uses as a name for his group of “Top Guys.” Until he snaps that gold belt around his waist, his victories may remain impressive, but none of them will truly mean anything.
With the AEW world championship, Max fulfills a prophecy. Sure, it’s one he created in his own warped mind, but find me something since the debut of AEW that would disprove the fate of someone better than all of us. I’ll wait, because there isn’t such an example, and we know it. From the very beginning, when Max tore down the Hitman in Las Vegas in 2019, it’s been written in the stars. Hangman Page cost him his first shot, something that would have fast-tracked a duel with Chris Jericho. Now, he waits for redemption. Maybe, just maybe, as Kenny Omega holds dearly to that same world championship just over two years later, a cowboy is about to ride through the dust and take one back for the good guys. No lies, it would be a beautiful moment – one to remember indeed.
Yet, the thing about good guys and good stories is that there are always more bad guys just around the corner waiting for their chance to live forever. Max has had a lifetime to visualize his rise to championship gold, and while Dynamite diamond rings are nice, we all know he doesn’t need the money. With two years to plan his revenge on everyone’s favorite cowboy, I shudder to wonder what’s in store. As off keel as MJF can seem to be at times, he is as calculated a killer as there is in All Elite Wrestling, with a multitude of weapons and information at his disposal.
It’s never been a matter of if he’ll get his crown, just a matter of when he’ll finally take it. When he does, prepare to bend the knee to the future of professional wrestling. Or don’t, at your own risk of course. I’d choose wisely though, because the view from the bottom pales in comparison to the one he has…